We all know that it’s important to take a vehicle to the mechanic for a tune-up and routine maintenance every now and then. For some reason, though, many couples seem to believe that marriage is a “set it and forget it” kind of endeavor.
Successful couples, on the other hand, know that a successful marriage requires daily and weekly care, plus occasional pauses for more heavy-duty maintenance. According to New York City couples’ counselor Janet Zinn, anniversaries can serve as a wonderful reminder for couples to pause and maintain their relationship.
Surprisingly, the best types of marriage maintenance conversations do not begin with fraught discussions about how the relationship ought to improve, or how to obliterate the relationship’s weaknesses. “First and foremost, a talk about appreciation and gratitude is essential for the long-term,” Zinn says. “Let your partner know how he’s made a difference in your life, and be specific.” This makes a lot of sense, since the best kinds of relationships are ones in which there is shared respect and fond memories as the basis from which to tackle concerns.
Once you’ve enjoyed a walk down memory lane, Zinn suggests that you turn the conversation toward the future you want to build together. “Have a talk on how you would both like to grow in your lives, and what type of support you may need from one another to do so,” she says.
Finally, and only once you and your partner feel edified, you should discuss relationship patterns you don’t like, and how you can work together to break those patterns. “For instance, it could be that one spouse is critical, and the other feels that whatever he or she does isn’t good enough. The core is that the critical one doesn’t feel heard and respected, while the criticized one doesn’t feel appreciated,” Zinn explains.
If you’re not sure where to begin, Zinn suggests the following prompts to start your conversation on the right path.
Appreciation and gratitude
1. What are at least three ways in which you have become a better person with your partner?
2. Thank you for teaching me _____.
3. You have added value to my life by _____.
4. I really appreciate the time(s) that you ____.
Toward the future
5. Together, I am looking forward to _____.
6. Could I please have your support to try ______.
7. Something new I’d like to try together is ______.
8. I fell in love with you when you _____.
9. Remember when ____?
10. It was so meaningful when you _____.
11. What do you see as a new way to work through some of our differences?
12. How can we listen to each other without becoming defensive?
13. What is one thing you would like to change to enhance our relationship?
14. What steps can I take to help our relationship thrive? (This question can either be shared or private.)
Even if the discussion time seems a little daunting at first, try to remember that the conversation is first and foremost a happy one. If you’ve made it to 10 years, there is so much to celebrate, and so much to look forward to in the future.